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What does a County Executive do?

By Nicholas K.
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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The county executive is the top elected or appointed official for a regional government in the U.S. This official works with a county board to create policies that allow regional government to operate. An executive can use veto power over resolutions passed by the county board to stop ineffective or expensive proposals. County executives oversee day-to-day operations of the county including human resources, waste management, and land-use policies. An important duty of a county executive is to work with local residents to resolve issues within the authority of county government.

County executives work with individual members of the elected county board as well as the entire board to assist their constituents. An executive meets with subcommittee chairs on a regular basis to develop agendas and discuss potential issues. The county executive often presides over board meetings in conjunction with the most senior member. Additional duties on the board can include scheduling special hearings and arbitrating disputes between board members. This legislative role can include a voting role if the county laws do not give veto power to the executive.

The relationship between an executive and board members can be contentious if the executive has the veto power. County executives with veto powers are allowed to strike down measures passed by the board. County laws often allow the board to overrule the executive’s veto with votes from a large majority of the board.

A majority of a county executive’s responsibilities deal with the efficient operation of county offices on a daily basis. The executive supervises human resources and payroll experts to hire new employees while managing costs for wages and benefits. County executives work with mayors and other local officials to coordinate garbage and recycling pickup. The executive’s office might also coordinate with regional officials to handle environmental issues. Land-use policies including creation of permit applications and maintenance of public lands often originate from the county executive.

Residents of a county often look to the executive’s office for leadership on regional issues. This responsibility leads county executives to interact with constituents by letter and in person. Aides and interns in the executive’s office handle correspondence from residents with guidance from the executive. Another form of constituent outreach is a series of office hours each month where the county executive sits down with residents to discuss county affairs. Executives often schedule forums throughout the county when major resolutions are pending before the county board.

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Discussion Comments

By David09 — On Nov 03, 2011

@MrMoody - That’s unfortunate. I think that one of the most important things that a county executive can help to do is facilitate building infrastructure.

I lived in one area that fought for years to have a road built that would have served as a corridor for commercial transit, and they also wanted to build a convention center to serve as a magnet for major sporting and entertainment events.

It wasn’t until we got a strong executive on board that we were able to get both projects done, over a ten year period. He was a man of vision, not simply ancillary help to the mayor. He and the mayor worked well together to get their message across and raise the needed funds to complete the project.

By MrMoody — On Nov 03, 2011

@NathanG - We don’t have an executive where we live but I think that we could use them in one useful capacity – helping to win the public over on passing some needed bonds.

We’ve had several elections recently where we needed to pass what I thought were important bonds for rebuilding parts of the city where the roads were old, and filled with potholes.

This is something that really needed fixing in my opinion, and the mayor made his best pitch, but it wasn’t good enough. The bond measures failed.

By NathanG — On Nov 02, 2011

It should be pointed out that not every town has a county executive. Where I currently live does not, however I used to live in Montgomery County, Maryland for a few years.

The Montgomery County executive there was an excellent leader. During the time that I was there, he tackled issues like crime in the county by suggesting curfews for the young people (other counties had them) and was instrumental in making the county appealing to businesses.

Nearby Rockville, Maryland had been a big hub for businesses but the executive helped make Montgomery County appealing to businesses as well. In addition, he addressed issues with county budget shortfalls, often making tough decisions like furloughing employees and other unpopular – but necessary – measures to help shore up county funds.

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